Savvy Advice for Vacationing With Children With Special Needs, Part II
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Dr. Scott L. Barkin
Okay, Auntie, you’ve successfully made it to your destination with your favorite niece or nephew in tow. You’ve made all the necessary arrangements and gathered all the information you possibly could prior to your arrival. Now it’s time to do a few more things and you’ll be ready to have fun and enjoy your trip!
Expect The Unexpected
First, when you arrive, remember once again that although you have a great plan for your trip, not everything may go exactly as expected. Be ready to be flexible if something comes up that you did not prepare for. Always be ready with one of your predetermined back up plans. Things may go differently than planned, but doesn’t need to prevent everyone from having a great time.
When changes occur, try to keep a semblance of a routine for the child such as keeping the meals at the same general time as they would be at home. Also be sure to ensure that your niece or nephew gets to phone home to Mom and Dad at the same time each day. Be sure to update their parents on how things are going for you as well. If you are having trouble with something, they will be able to provide you with the best advice for how to fix the problem.
If you haven’t already, upon arrival, determine where quieter areas can be found. Sometimes you’ll need a spot to get away from a crowd, so explore your hotel or resort to find where those locations are aside from your room.
Be A Clear Communicator
Speak with the staff about the special arrangements you’ve made to ensure everything goes smoothly from the start. Make sure all of the special requests you’ve made have been prepared for you. If something you arranged becomes unavailable upon arrival, work patiently with the staff to arrange an alternate option that works for everyone.
If there is a medical issue they need to be aware of, tell the staff again, even if you discussed it when you booked the trip. As mentioned in part one, identify the location and directions for contacting or visiting emergency care. Explore the dining locations that may be provided for you for all of your meals. Remind any staff of a food allergy your niece or nephew may have.
Just like in our everyday lives, you might come across an employee at the resort or another tourist who is unaware of your niece or nephew’s developmental disability. No matter what their age, people can be rude. You can’t assume that everyone will know and understand a disability and ignorance sometimes leads us to the wrong conclusions. If you experience this behavior, you can either ignore it, or take the opportunity to educate. If someone is starring, invite them to ask a question. Everyday we have the opportunity to educate the public, and this education will both help you and the experience of others at some point in the future.
Be sure to take pictures for the memory books as well as for your own files. This may be your first trip with your special niece or nephew, but hopefully it won’t be your last! Take notes along with photos to document your trip. You can record what worked and what did not. Maybe the plane ride did not go as planned, so next time you’d like to drive. Maybe you planned too many activities for each day and need to plan to do less next trip. These kinds of notes and observations will ensure you next trip goes even better than the first.
Before you know it your trip will come to an end. If you are flying back home, be sure to call ahead to the airline to ensure everything goes smoothly. You may not be as familiar with the airport you are flying out of so give yourself extra time to check in and get everyone ready to board the plane.
Most importantly, have fun and enjoy this special time. Your nieces or nephews are lucky to have you in their lives!
Scott L. Barkin, Ph.D., is Executive Director of Block Institute, a Brooklyn, New York educational facility dedicated to serving the needs of children and adults with disabilities.